Soft power is the manifestation of a state’s perception in the international arena since it defines its stature on a global scale. While it’s true that Pakistan’s track record in this regard has remained abysmal to a large extent since the days of the Soviet-Afghan War, there have been concerted efforts in reshaping it as a viable destination for tourism and investment in recent times. Especially when considering how the civil-military leadership has tackled militancy and managed to contain terrorism through a systematic manner.
Tourism opportunities have immense potential in projecting the state’s soft power. Coincidently, ever since security risks have decreased, a number of international celebrities in the form of footballers and singers have either visited Pakistan or shown their interest. Lius Figo and Ricardo Kaka’s brief yet memorable visit was considered unimaginable not long ago. Whereas, documentary makers, travel enthusiasts and youth ambassadors from other countries such as Brandon Stanton, Marion Pfennigs and Mark Wiens have proven that Pakistan has the potential to become the heart of Asia for not only tourism but economic activities as well.
Hosting some of the previous and current year’s Pakistan Super League (PSL) matches in the country define how safe it has become for playing international sports given how the March 2009 Sri Lankan team attack deprived the state of its rightful place in the world of cricket.
Other sporting activities such as mountaineering, skiing and desert safaris have witnessed an exponential increase all thanks to an improved security scenario. Not mentioning that Portugal was the first European country to lift travel advisory in years. Some other countries have also followed suit and downgraded, if not lifted, their advisories.
What does it all show? The military has done an impressive work in reducing the risk factors and has played a pivotal role in bringing a number of celebrities from abroad.
As for the Foreign Office, diplomatic missions abroad have done a tremendously applauding job in promoting soft power through concerts, fashion shows and exhibitions. Whether it’s the performance of Sachal Orchestra at the UN’s General Assembly hall under the watch of Pakistan’s envoy to the UN Dr Maleeha Lodhi or the extravagant fashion shows organised in Berlin by Pakistan’s Ambassador to Germany Jauhar Saleem, the state’s diplomacy still has what it takes to present the best possible image of Pakistan.
Nevertheless, there’s still much to be done in light of a complex regional scenario. Placing the house in order, through the implementation of National Action Plan (NAP), should be a topmost priority which can open doors to much needed foreign investments on an exponential scale. More importantly, if tourism is to be sustained for years, groundwork is required to promote the country via PR campaigns on international media-just like India, Sri Lanka, Maldives and Malaysia have done in the past.